Sleep Apnea vs Insomnia

If you’re having trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. Health experts say more than 25 percent of people are diagnosed with insomnia, while 20 percent are diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Dr. Imtiaz Ahmad, a pulmonologist on staff at Lee Health, says different types of sleep disorders can come with many different symptoms. “In terms of insomnia, usually it’s a difficulty in falling asleep or difficulty in staying asleep.”

Dr. Ahmad says insomnia can affect people throughout the day. “You may have impaired productivity, lack of concentration, unexplained fatigue, and a memory issue.”

Debra Peck, a nurse practitioner with Lee Health, says other sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, can have similar symptoms to insomnia where patients wake up multiple times during the night. “Are they waking up choking or gasping? Do they wake up and think they have to go to the bathroom multiple times during the night? Do they think their mind is racing?” All can be signs of sleep apnea.

Insomnia can be a lifelong problem, typically starting at an early age due to family history; whereas, sleep apnea can often begin at middle age and be triggered by irregular sleep patterns or health problems.

“Cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, and different kind of arrhythmia, stroke, diabetes, or hypertension are a driver for sleep apnea,” said Dr. Ahmad.

Patients shouldn’t wait to talk to their doctor about participating in a sleep study. “When it’s interfering with your daily life and your activities of daily living, or when you come home from work and you don’t have the energy to do cooking or cleaning you just want to sit in a chair and fall asleep,” said Peck.

Finding a treatment to help patients get a better night’s sleep depends on the type of sleep disorder they have.

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